This week, rock band Embrace’s eponymously-titled new album entered the UK chart at number five. Which is quite an accomplishment for a band that sunk without trace eight years ago and whose last album, ‘This New Day’ released in 2006, really wasn’t that great.
So what on earth does this have to do with PR, communications and social media?
I’ve been following the band’s activity on Facebook for the last few months in the lead up to the new record, and it’s no surprise to me that it should chart so high given the way the band has gone about whipping its fans into a frenzy of anticipation. Me included, I should add.
They may not know it, but Danny McNamara and the boys could teach a lot of brands a thing or two about the power of social communications and advocacy. Here’s how they did it…
The Set Up
It all started back in September 2013 when the Embrace Facebook page sprung into life with a sudden announcement that attracted a lot of attention. Note the number of shares.
This set the scene for a seven month-long campaign that drew fans in and generated excitement and expectation the like of which I’ve rarely seen.
Embrace fans have always been pretty ardent and hardcore in their support of the band. Of all of the bands I’ve seen live, Embrace were rivaled perhaps only by Oasis in the fervour at their gigs. Embrace fans LOVE Embrace.
What the band has done so well, whether or not they’re aware of it, is to leverage that zeal through Facebook to generate hundreds (thousands?) of ambassadors who went out to spread the word about their comeback.
Following that initial status update, a series of mysterious secret gigs were teased, announced and reviewed with intriguing imagery over the course of the next three months. Boiler suits, radioactive iconography, graffiti and night vision photography hinted at something new and exciting from a band that, despite having become a little stale and predictable, was much missed.
And then, come January this year, the band stepped things up a gear by posting a series of teasing and unexplained tally mark images over consecutive days, culminating with the announcement that all Embrace fans were hoping for.
13th January was a big day for Embrace. And the band used Facebook to great effect. There followed in quick succession the announcement of a new EP, a video for the ‘Refugees’ single, more secret gigs, and a series of radio interviews. All generating great social engagement to spread news far and wide.
By the start of February and despite there being three months until the release of the new album, Facebook fans were already in a frenzy of anticipation.
At this point you may think Embrace had peaked too early. Community managers everywhere will know that Facebook fans are fickle, and that maintaining a high level of expectation and engagement over twelve weeks is a big challenge. Especially in an age of Facebook Zero.
But thanks to daily updates from the band themselves (no community managers or PR people in obvious sight, by the way) with plenty of exclusive content from gigs, teasers of what was to come and eye-catching imagery, interest was not only maintained but built. Embrace were back.
On 28th April, the big day arrived. By this point the expectation of the new album was almost palpable. The secret gigs and the singles ‘Refugees’ and ‘Follow You Home’ had whetted fans’ appetites for the new material, but it didn’t stop there.
The following week saw the band up the activity again, engaging fans with multiple updates per day, asking for feedback and comments about the new record, and questioning people about how they’d been spreading the word (thus encouraging them further to do so). All of which was creating overwhelmingly positive flows of information into fans’ Facebook news feeds.
Above anything else, the tone of this activity was spot on. As I’ve already made reference to, the band run this page themselves. There’s little evidence of any pre-planned marketing here; no social media guru guiding them; no overt selling. They sign off their updates personally. They come across as genuinely grateful, warm, authentic and likeable guys. And, as Embrace might say, ‘The Good Will Out’.
The result? An album from a band that could very easily have lost all relevance after an eight year hiatus that sold enough copies in its first week of release to make the top five.
It may, at first glance, seem like a stretch to offer Embrace up as an example of great social communications. After all, Embrace is a band. If you’re reading this you’re probably working for a company or a product or a comms agency. But look beyond the topic and you can learn a lot. The same principles apply. In short:
- Draw your fans in with activity that piques their interest. Be original, surprising, eye-catching and attention-grabbing.
- Offer exclusive content they won’t find elsewhere.
- If you’ve got something to announce, do it with style. Tease and build anticipation.
- Treat your fans like people. Be personal and make them feel special. They’re not robots and neither should you be.
- Create reach by encouraging genuine, meaningful engagement.
Adendum: The Album
As an aside (although this isn’t a review post), ‘Embrace’ is a great comeback album. The band has updated its sound to something distinctly 2014 that is still immediately recognisably Embrace. Each of the ten tracks on the record has something to offer, whether it’s a driving baseline, Joshua Tree-era U2-esque guitars, Danny’s soaring vocals, prominent synth riffs or surprising changes of direction mid-track. It’s an interesting listen, and it’s a very welcome return for a very well-loved band. Go buy it!
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Posted by Paul Sutton